With Canada, Russia and the United States in the tournament, co-hosts France and Germany are going to need plenty of home ice advantage to spring an upset at the hockey world championships.
The worlds start Friday in the tournament’s two host cities, Cologne and Paris. Sweden take on Russia in the Group A opener in Cologne, before co-hosts Germany face off against the Americans. Meanwhile in the French capital, Finland play Belarus, before the Czech squad takes on two-time defending champions Canada in Group B.
Group A matches will be played in Germany and Group B matches in France, with the semi-finals and final to be played in Cologne. In Group A, Germany joins the US, Sweden, Slovakia, Latvia, Denmark, Italy and Russia, which won the last of its record 27 titles in 2014. France shares Group B with Canada, Finland, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Belarus, Norway and Slovenia.
The top four teams from each group advance to the second round, with the first-place team in each group playing the team that finishes fourth in the other.
Germany, which last hosted the tournament seven years ago, will be hoping some home support can help it reach at least the semi-finals, just like it did in 2010.
But after facing the Americans, Germany will take on Sweden and Russia.
"Realistically, we could be without any points after three games," German hockey federation president Franz Reindl said.
"I'm not afraid at all. What should I be afraid of?" Germany forward Felix Schuetz said. "If we lose I won't go to jail. I'll still have my wife and my child."
While Germany captain Marcel Goc is injured and forward Leon Draisaitl is still tied up with the Edmonton Oilers in the National Hockey League playoffs, Germany will have goaltender Thomas Greiss and New York Islanders teammate Dennis Seidenberg, with Arizona Coyotes winger Tobias Rieder and German league top-scorer Patrick Reimer of the Nuremberg Ice Tigers up front.
"It will be difficult enough," Seidenberg said. "A lot can happen in a tournament. You can be lucky in a game or simply play better. Everything is possible."
Hockey in neighbouring France has been growing in recent years and the national team has performed well under long-time coach Dave Henderson, a Canadian from Winnipeg.
France has not hosted this tournament since 1951. Its hopes will rest in part on NHL exports Antoine Roussel of the Dallas Stars and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare of the Philadelphia Flyers. Roussel was named a tournament all-star in France's 2014 quarter-final run.
France goaltender Cristobal Huet will be making his fourteenth and final appearance in this tournament. A 41-year-old former Montreal Canadiens star who won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, Huet is considered to be France's best ever hockey player.
But neither France nor Germany can count on the caliber of 18 NHL players that Canada named in its initial list as it seeks its third straight title.
"Between them, these players have made 17 appearances at this very event, including nine players who've come away as gold medalists for Canada," Canada general manager Ron Hextall said. "They can play a big role in helping set the tone for this team."
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)
Date created : 2017-05-05